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Archive for the ‘Science Fiction and Space Shit’ Category

Boss Level

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2021

I watched that movie PALM SPRINGS recently. It’s a GROUNDHOG DAY time loop romantic comedy type thing that uses the concept in a smart way that makes it a parallel to depression and hopelessness, and it’s just a funny movie and I enjoyed it. I also really liked HAPPY DEATH DAY (GROUNDHOG DAY as a slasher movie) and its sequel HAPPY DEATH DAY 2 U was pretty good too.

But I feel a little weird about “GROUNDHOG DAY” being a genre now. The first is still the best and most profound iteration of the form, and it’s such a distinctive premise that any movie that does a spin on it can’t help but feel a little more like biting than following a tradition. So I wasn’t exactly jumping to see Joe Carnahan’s BOSS LEVEL, which is GROUNDHOG DAY crossed with an action movie. I’m not too excited about “life is a video game” concepts either, so the title didn’t help.

But I shouldn’t have hesitated because this is a whole lot of fun, one of Carnahan’s best, and I think the script by Chris & Eddie Borey (OPEN GRAVE) and Carnahan earns the use of the time loop. Most of these movies wisely never explain the reason for the phenomenon – this feels very different because it’s all about him figuring out what’s doing this to him and why, so he has a more traditional, specific problem to solve (though along the way he learns life lessons like in the other ones). (read the rest of this shit…)

Heavy Metal

Tuesday, March 2nd, 2021

Six months after AMERICAN POP we got another animated-feature-for-adults-with-a-rock-soundtrack. This entry in the ink, paint and rock ‘n roll mini-genre is not directly about the music, but heavily emphasizes its soundtrack, basing sequences around it not quite like FANTASIA, but not completely unlike it. And some of the visual subject matter definitely shares its DNA with the kind of stuff they put on the album covers for this kind of music.

HEAVY METAL was based on the comics anthology magazine Heavy Metal, which is an English translation of the French magazine Métal hurlant. If they had translated the title literally it would’ve been HOWLING METAL, so it would’ve sounded about fifteen to twenty times cooler, but I bet it wouldn’t have been turned into an animated feature with a soundtrack featuring Sammy Hagar, Nazareth and Black Sabbath. And Devo and Blue Öyster Cult and Cheap Trick and Journey and Grand Funk Railroad and Stevie Nicks. And Riggs? Not the same one we’re thinking of, I don’t think. I don’t know who Riggs is. But he has a song on this.

The movie originates from Canada, specifically producer Ivan Reitman, whose directorial work STRIPES came out the same summer. He’d also produced serious genre movies SHIVERS, THE HOUSE BY THE LAKE and RABID, so this movie being much more of a sci-fi/fantasy/horror type deal than a comedy is not completely out of the blue for him. He’d also produced NATIONAL LAMPOON’S ANIMAL HOUSE, making him a pioneer of cinematic adaptations of magazine brand names. I wonder if he ever tried to do HIGHLIGHTS’ GOOFUS AND GALLANT? If not they must not have Highlights in Canada, because that’s just a no-brainer. (read the rest of this shit…)

TV movie double feature: Running Delilah (1993) and Amazons (1984)

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2021

I’d been wanting to watch this 1993 movie called RUNNING DELILAH, first because it stars Kim Cattrall as a cyborg, then because I realized it was directed by Richard Franklin (ROAD GAMES, PSYCHO II, LINK), and it didn’t hurt that it co-starred THE PHANTOM himself, Billy Zane. What I didn’t figure out until shortly after I pressed play was that it was really an ABC TV pilot that was released as a TV movie when it wasn’t picked up for a series. It’s written by Ron Koslow, the screenwriter of INTO THE NIGHT, but more relevant to this he was the creator of Beauty and the Beast, the popular show with Ron Perlman and Linda Hamilton. I guess RUNNING DELILAH was one of his romance/genre crossover ideas that didn’t fly.

And I do not believe it transcends that description, but I wanted to review it for The Cultural Record, so I’ll go ahead and throw in another TV movie, AMAZONS (1984) that was included on the same DVD. (It also had SUPERDOME [1978] and THE AMY FISHER STORY [1993,the one with Drew Barrymore]) but I didn’t watch those.)

RUNNING DELILAH finds Christina (Cattrall) working as a secretary, but she’s actually Delilah, a spy trying to steal documents from her criminal boss (Yorgo Voyagis, VAMPIRE IN VENICE). She meets up with her partner Paul (Zane), who sports what was called a “Caesar cut,” as popularized by George Clooney on ER, and laments that they never got it on. He seems to take it well when she turns him down again, and this is actually one time when it’s a benefit that it was supposed to be a TV show. If it was a movie the guy she turns down would turn out to be a traitor, but since it’s a TV show it just means there will be sexual tension and then they’ll fall for each other. (read the rest of this shit…)

Possessor

Monday, February 8th, 2021

POSSESSOR is a fucking great and deeply disturbing near-future-cyberpunkish assassination thriller directed by Brandon Cronenberg. Yeah, when you’re David Cronenberg’s son, seems like it would be good not to direct real grim, trippy movies that are gonna be compared to your genius dad’s early shit. Too much to live up to. It might be easier to just be a rapper named Li’l Decker or something. Like, what if Sofia Coppola had started out making gangster movies? But DJ The Doctor From JASON X here pulls it off. It doesn’t seem to be copying any specific content or style from the elder Cronenberg, but it definitely is a contemporary equivalent to the tone and quality of the old man’s early, crazy shit.

It stars Andrea Riseborough, who I for a second recognized from MANDY but thought – nah, must be somebody else. She plays a pallid and haunted looking lady named Tasya Vos, a fittingly cool name for someone in her line of work. She looks like she’s on her death bed, but it’s part of her job as a strange type of assassin and undercover agent… I would say a futuristic type, but I’m told this takes place in alternate past? I don’t know. But she spends most of her time in a lab with her head plugged into a machine that somehow projects her consciousness into an implant that her colleagues have clandestinely placed inside an unwilling subject. So, while controlling some poor sucker’s body, she murders her target, then turns a gun on “herself,” which returns her to her real body and/or ties up the loose ends of the assassination plot. Kind of like a clumsier, riskier, more evil version of plugging into the Matrix. (read the rest of this shit…)

Tenet

Thursday, December 31st, 2020

I like Christopher Nolan’s movies. So, had things gone reasonably in the world, Christopher Nolan’s TENET by Christopher Nolan is a movie that I for sure would’ve seen right away in a theater. But… you know. So I didn’t.

Now, after having played some theaters in some parts of the world where some people think it’s safe to go to theaters, with months having passed since the professionals moved on to other topics, many seemingly unimpressed, TENET is on blu-ray, so I have seen it. And I will just say up front that I am very pro TENET. I really enjoyed it. People around these parts call me Bad Lou TENET, Port of Call This Movie Is Great.

First, let me start by pointing out that this entire review has been written as a palindrome. I’m just kidding. I could do it for sure, I know how, but I don’t want to show off. Christopher Nolan, however, has zero qualms about showing off, and I love him for it.

(read the rest of this shit…)

Skylin3s

Thursday, December 17th, 2020

If there’s a more unlikely sci-fi franchise than the SKYLINE saga that doesn’t star Vin Diesel, I don’t know what it is. The series began with 2010’s SKYLINE, directed by Greg and Colin Strause (ALIENS VS. PREDATOR: REQUIEM), a $10 million alien invasion movie showcasing VFX from the Strause’s company Hydraulx Entertainment (TERMINATOR 3, 300, BATTLE: LOS ANGELES). They were able to accomplish that partly by setting it inside Greg Strause’s condo.

I can’t currently vouch for that one, because everyone said it was bad and I skipped it (I should give it a shot). But that’s what made it surprising when, seven years later, part 1 co-writer Liam O’Donnell made his directorial debut with BEYOND SKYLINE, a weird and ambitious sci-fi/action mashup starring Frank Grillo and featuring THE RAID’s Iko Uwais and Yayan Ruhian – and yes, they get to do silat on some aliens. Now, three years later O’Donnell has returned with another drastically different chapter, SKYLIN3S. In a director’s statement included with the production notes he admits, “‘They made another SKYLINE movie!?’ It’s legitimately crazy, I know.” (read the rest of this shit…)

Pandorum

Tuesday, December 1st, 2020

I remember the sci-fi/horror movie PANDORUM coming out – I thought it was more recent than 2009, but that’s how it goes – and I don’t think I heard anything good about it. It was not something that was on my list to see until I found out Cung Le was in it, and then it still took me years to get to it. But now I can report that, though certainly not perfect, this is a very interesting space movie with lots of cool ideas. It’s in English with a decent budget and stars Ben Foster and Dennis Quaid, but director Christian Alvart is the German guy who did the serial killer movie ANTIBODIES. So it’s gonna be a little more off-kilter than most movies produced by Paul W.S.Anderson.

It has some overlap with what I call the Space Loneliness movies, because it’s about some people waking up from hypersleep during a 123 year interstellar trip. It’s different, though, because they’re not just the small crew of one ship like DARK STAR, ALIEN, BLOOD MACHINES, etc. The Elysium is built to carry much of the earth’s population to a new home on the planet Tanis, so it’s enormous, and when they run into other people they’ve never met them before. (read the rest of this shit…)

Mimic 3: Sentinel

Wednesday, November 25th, 2020

Neither MIMIC or MIMIC 2 seemed to go over all that well, but that didn’t stop Dimension Films from releasing MIMIC 3: SENTINEL in 2003. This is probly my favorite of the three, and at the very least it deserves high marks for taking advantage of the pre-sold nature of the format to take a weird left turn, not at all the lower-budget-rehash approach of so many DTV sequels. It follows a drastically different template: the Hitchcockian voyeur thriller. It even uses a quasi-Saul Bass movie poster font for the title. But it doesn’t feel like they took an old suspense thriller script and grafted a bug man onto it, because it ties into and builds off of the world of MIMIC in smart and interesting ways.

This one is written and directed by J.T. Petty, whose THE BURROWERS I’ve been meaning to check out forever. He also did SOFT FOR DIGGING (a $5,000 student feature that I believe got him this gig), S&MANand HELLBENDERS. Here he’s made a movie that kind of feels like it comes out of the same school as early Soderbergh or Nolan – the hyper-intelligent indie guys that were more into old noirs than drive-in movies. (read the rest of this shit…)

Mimic 2

Tuesday, November 24th, 2020

One thing we’ve learned from sci-fi and horror films is that monsters and weird things find ways to survive, to evolve, to adapt, to keep coming back. It was true in the case of the Judas Breed, a bug genetically engineered by Dr. Susan Tyler to be a sellout traitor that kills off the diseased roaches of the Manhattan sewers and then dies out, that instead managed to squirt out tens of thousands of generations in a couple years and evolve into a six foot termite-mantis that can mimic the shape of a human to survive on the streets. It was also the case with the MIMIC movie series itself. Guillermo Del Toro and the Miramax marketing department created an identifiable enough brand, the Weinsteins or somebody okayed a direct-to-video sequel, and with a third of the budget and no need to attract box office I suspect it was able to be hatched with less of their scrutiny and meddling. While MIMIC is an interesting movie that doesn’t entirely deliver as slick mainstream entertainment, its sequels are in a good position to exceed expectations. They’re better than you fear and different than you expect, thus fulfilling the potential of the DTV sequel format. (read the rest of this shit…)

Jiu Jitsu

Wednesday, November 18th, 2020

There’s something going on in the world of indie action that I don’t think gets enough attention. It started in 2016 with KICKBOXER: VENGEANCE, a fun remake of the Cannon classic, with stuntman Alain Moussi in the lead and JCVD himself, in eccentric character actor mode, playing the mentor. It was directed by John Stockwell, who did pretty good with IN THE BLOOD and some of his other movies, so when the screenwriter took over as director for the sequel that didn’t seem like a good sign to me.

I was so wrong! KICKBOXER: RETALIATION turned out even better than the first one, with much more ambitious and assured direction, including complex choreography with great long take camera work. Of course, writer/director Dimitri Logothetis wasn’t some screenwriter getting his first shot at directing – he’d had a long and unusual filmmaking history that started in ’80s b-movies, producing HARDBODIES 2 and directing SLAUGHTERHOUSE ROCK, and included the 1989 boxing documentary CHAMPIONS FOREVER. Incidentally he’s also a blackbelt in Kenpo karate, having been taught by Ed Parker (he says he got to train with Elvis three times).

Now Logothetis has reunited with Moussi for another action vehicle, not a remake but a sci-fi story he first tested out as a comic book. And since it has a crazy premise and a good supporting role for Nicolas Cage maybe more people will notice this time. (read the rest of this shit…)